Tactics Bored: Why Rihanna is a football fraud

The Rio Report

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After the storm of Rihanna showing what life is actually like when you have fun, and partying into the night with Germany's euphoric World Cup winners, so comes the calm and moral goodness of the tactical analysis.

That’s not to say Rihanna is missing out by not studying pass completion stats, merely to heavily imply it.

This World Cup has, apparently, been awarded to the ‘winners’ of Germany, despite them playing with no Barcelona players, and with absolutely no link to Marcelo Bielsa, who has been established elsewhere as the architect of at least half the sides at the World Cup. Unfortunately, for deeply tactical reasons that you probably wouldn’t be intelligent enough to understand, the match does not count. Germany are fraudulent winners and the match must be replayed.

It doesn’t matter that Rihanna tweets photos with the nominal winners - if anything, it shouldn’t be her with the players and the World Cup - it should be me. I should be there with Alejandro Sabella, Javier Mascherano, Joachim Loew and Philip Lahm, with a chalkboard on my iPad, explaining how if Bielsa had been playing with 22 robots and managing both sides, nirvana - a never-ending 0-0 draw - would have been achieved.

For that and many reasons, explained below, the match needs to be played again to settle the true tactical victor. Rihanna wouldn’t be allowed to come to this match. Or watch on telly. Anyway, let's get analytical.

If you take a look at the stats below, you can see that the two teams combined ran approximately 200,000 meters altogether.

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Germany had more possession (and were therefore the better side) and so ran more with the ball than Argentina managed. It was initially a deeply tactical game, and therefore morally and intellectually worthy.

Germany focused their attacks down the wings, but their approach play was more calm and technical. Argentina played far more vertically, on the counterattack, but also played down the wings where most of the space was. However, because the win came in extra time, it came at a period where most players were extremely exhausted.

This exhaustion means that, if you take a look at the diagram below, the players were less able to focus on their tactical approach to the match. Whether they should defend in a high or low block, whether they should use a false nine or a false 10, if the wingers should invert consistently or only when pure Bielsisme would demand it, and even whether or not they should play deliberately horizontally in order to waste time. The diagram below shows that tactical focus had fallen below critical mass - The Lobanovsky Curzon, as it is known by experts - where any result immediately becomes null and void. In tactical terms, there was no World Cup winner, and the match must be replayed.

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This disquiet and lack of satisfaction with the result and the commitment to tactics can be further displayed by using an innovative new heatmap. It was originally developed by @PrayForPatrick, a well-known tactics guru who analyses, examines, discovers and ruminates on the philosophical importance of analytics, soccermetrics, all matrices in the world and all tactics in football. He was similarly depressed with how little tactics featured in extra-time in all of the World Cup knockout stages where it was used. He was also beside himself that at the stage of the penalty shootout, chalkboards become almost entirely redundant, because you can’t place little symbols for all the team on the pitch - the lifeblood of tactics - and the stress almost broke him.

FORMATION BEFORE PENALTIES

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FORMATION DURING PENALTIES

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But he would not be beaten or cowed, and instead channelled his ennui into his work. The heatmap below is a revolutionary new tool that shows the importance of extra time to tactical developments:

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This only reinforces the need for the World Cup to be replayed at a later date to have the real winner of the match properly decided.

Once the game is rightly settled, it will be time to admit that the dust has fallen and the new season will soon be upon us. It will be time to look to the future - to be personally vertical, if you like - and start to analyse what will come.

There are some key predictions to make. Obviously there’s the Champions League, Serie A, the Bundesliga and the La Liga league, and the tactically uninteresting Premier League, but none of that covers Marcelo Bielsa. Bielsa is managing Marseille in Ligue 1, and therefore the smart money is on Marseille to win the league every season until he leaves. Secondly, by finishing in sixth last season, Marseille qualified for the Europa League, so it will be worth keeping in mind that Marseille will thus end the season as Europa League winners.

Wait, Marseille didn’t qualify for the Europa League? Who cares, then?

Alexander Netherton - @lxndrnthrtn

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